Cooper Kupp shares story of the time he almost got choke slammed by Khalil Mack

Despite being a WR, Cooper Kupp is asked to block a lot of pass rushers. Blocking Khalil Mack almost ended in Kupp getting choke slammed.

Cooper Kupp isn’t your typical receiver. Yes, he’s one of the best at catching passes and making plays in the open field, but he also might be the best blocking receiver in the NFL. The Rams use him as a blocker fairly often, whether he’s in the slot, split out wide or attached the formation as a tight end.

That’s resulted in some tough matchups for Kupp when it comes to blocking edge rushers. He’ll either chip them on passing plays or help his tackles and tight ends on running plays, doing whatever it takes to make a rep successful.

There was one time, though, when he almost got destroyed by Khalil Mack. He told the story on the Colin Cowherd Podcast recently, describing what happened two years ago.

“I’ve had to block Jadeveon Clowney off the edge. I’ve had to block Khalil Mack,” he said. “You know, Khalil Mack two years ago when he was with Chicago, I had to block him on the back side a couple times and there was one play where he grabs me – it was kind of a cut-off block. I wasn’t, like, straight-up with him, but I cut him off pretty good, and he got me and he was this close to choke slamming me. I was able at the last second, I felt he was about to come and I just yell, ‘Khalil!’ and he luckily pulled off. He was laughing afterwards but he had a chance to really do some damage to me. But there’s been some guys that I’ve had to block that are great in this league, but I’ve also learned some good stuff from our tackles and the guys that have taught me a few little techniques to be able to weasel my way into losing with dignity in some situations.”

Kupp is bigger than most people realize, being 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, but he’s no match for Mack – who’s 6-3 and 252 pounds of pure muscle. Kupp held his own, like he always does against bigger opponents, but it sounds like that matchup with Mack could’ve gotten ugly.

He’ll get another matchup with Mack next season when the Rams and Chargers square off on New Year’s Day.

4 Rams players who need to stand out in OTAs

These four players need to stand out as the Rams progress through OTAs.

Organized team activities, or OTAs, are underway in Thousand Oaks as the Rams progress through their offseason program. While position battles won’t heat up until training camp when the pads come on, there’s still plenty that coaches can take away from practices this time of year.

These four players need to stand out during OTAs to give themselves a leg up on the competition before mandatory minicamp and eventually training camp in July.

Devin White always has Rams-Bucs games circled due to LA’s dominance

Devin White always circles games against the Rams, knowing they’ve had the Buccaneers’ number

The Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have developed a little bit of a rivalry over the last three years. Tom Brady’s arrival in 2020 made the Bucs a much better team, but they still have not beaten the Rams since he signed with Tampa Bay.

The most recent meeting between these teams was in the divisional round of last season’s playoffs, a game the Rams won 30-27 in dramatic fashion after blowing a second-half lead, only to steal the game with a deep bomb from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp.

Devin White knows very well just how badly the Bucs have struggled against the Rams, so he always circles their matchups with Los Angeles with the goal of ending their three-game losing streak. He’s already got his eye on their Week 9 meeting.

“I always have that [game] circled,” White said, via Joe Bucs Fan. “We’ve never beat them [in the playoffs]. I definitely know we’ve never beat them [in the playoffs]. There was a perfect time to beat them [in the playoffs last year] when it really, really mattered.”

With Brady back in the mix, there’s a decent chance the Buccaneers and Rams could meet again in the playoffs for the second straight year. They’re two of the top three teams in the NFC, and the conference could have to go through either LA or Tampa Bay en route to the Super Bowl – depending on what the Cowboys, Cardinals, 49ers and other teams are able to do in 2022.

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South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler is watching a lot of Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense

South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler is watching a lot of Matthew Stafford and Rams film as the Gamecocks offense triest to resemble LA’s

The Los Angeles Rams offense is a good one to watch and take ideas from. It’s one of the most creative schemes in the NFL, thanks to Sean McVay’s variety of route combinations and blocking concepts.

The South Carolina Gamecocks have been watching a lot of the Rams offense as they gear up for the 2022 season, and their quarterback, Spencer Rattler, even believes the two schemes are similar.

“It’s really like the same offense as the Rams,” he said, via 247 Sports. “That’s a lot of the tape we watch. What they’re doing, we’re doing. You definitely have your shots down the field but it’s just a good offense. It’s a balanced offense. We do a lot of good things, so I’m excited to fully learn all of it. I’ve learned dang near all of it already, but we got a lot more install to go throughout the summer, so I’m just gonna soak it all in and prepare the best as I can.”

Rattler transferred to South Carolina after a rough stretch with Oklahoma, even getting benched last season after previously being viewed as a Heisman Candidate. He’s trying to revive his draft stock with the Gamecocks, and watching Matthew Stafford is helping him attempt to do that.

He’s been watching a lot of film of Stafford as he prepares to lead South Carolina’s offense, keeping an eye on how he reads coverages and goes through his progressions.

“Right now I like what Matthew Stafford is doing,” Rattler said. “We’re watching a lot of his film because we run similar offenses, similar plays. It’s helped me to see what he does, how he goes through his reads against these coverages or these looks or at these game-time situations. I’m really watching him. Of course you’ve got Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, (Patrick) Mahomes. I’m just taking the film you see and try to implement it on the field. When I go back home to Arizona, I’ll be training different types of stuff with my quarterback coach as well.”

Stafford may not be viewed as one of the three or four best quarterbacks in the NFL, but when it comes to certain aspects of playing the position, he’s better than most of his peers: arm angles, going through reads, accuracy down the field.

Rattler is wise to watch Stafford’s tape.

Rams waive undrafted rookie Dion Novil

The Rams waived undrafted rookie Dion Novil, who was a productive player at North Texas

The Los Angeles Rams signed 17 rookies after the 2022 draft concluded, but not all of them will make it to training camp with the team. They’ve already waived a couple of them, most recently releasing defensive lineman Dion Novil this week.

Novil was signed by the Rams after the draft, coming out of North Texas where he was a productive player. Last season alone, he had 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks, also breaking up two passes and recording one interception.

In his career, he had 38 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks, play 48 games in five seasons.

Aaron Donald shows off his always-impressive footwork while training in Pittsburgh

Aaron Donald may not be at OTAs, but he’s still working hard back home in Pittsburgh

Aaron Donald isn’t currently in Los Angeles for OTAs with the Rams, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still working out on his own. He certainly is, doing so back home in Pittsburgh with his usual trainer.

He’s working on his footwork and agility, which is only part of what makes him the dominant player that he is. Even after vacationing for a little bit to celebrate his birthday, Donald looks like he’s in mid-season form already.

Here are a couple of videos of Donald working out, going through ladder drills and various other agility exercises.

If you were at all worried about Donald missing OTAs, don’t be. He’ll be ready for the regular season when September rolls around.

Who are the Rams’ three best players entering 2022?

The Rams have a ton of talent on their roster, but who are their three best players entering 2022? Pro Football Focus gives their take.

There are a lot of stars on the Rams’ roster heading into the 2022 season. Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Bobby Wagner and Allen Robinson are among them, headlining a team that’s poised to make a run at winning back-to-back Super Bowls.

But when you ignore value and importance, and only look at talent, who are the three best players on the Rams? Pro Football Focus picked every team’s top three players for this year, and the choices in Los Angeles were fairly easy.

PFF picked Donald, Ramsey and Kupp, pointing to Stafford as a player who was also considered for the top three. The reason for picking those three players was obvious: Each of them led the league in overall grade at their respective positions in 2021.

The three players above were the three best players at their respective positions over the course of last season, and that’s a big reason why the Rams were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. No player graded higher than Donald on the interior defensive line; no player graded out higher than Ramsey at cornerback; and no wide receiver earned a higher overall grade than Kupp. Not much more needs to justify their places on this list than that.

It’d be really hard to argue against Donald, Ramsey and Kupp being among the Rams’ three best players. In fact, they’re all probably viewed as top-20 players in the NFL regardless of position.

Stafford has the strongest case to be considered one of the Rams’ top three players, but he needs to play better than he did in the regular season after leading the league in interceptions. He cleaned things up in the postseason and looked like one of the five or 10 best quarterbacks in football, but he must carry that over into the regular season.

Until then, the Rams’ top three isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

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Sean McVay explains why he’s viewing Robert Rochell as a rookie this year

Robert Rochell missed time with multiple injuries last year, which has Sean McVay viewing him as a rookie in 2022

When Robert Rochell was drafted by the Rams in the fourth round last year, he was viewed as a fairly raw prospect who might need some time to develop before becoming a starter. It didn’t take long for him to crack the starting lineup, however, making his first start in Week 5 against the Seahawks.

Rochell made five total starts and appeared in 11 games, though he likely would’ve played even more had it not been for a wrist and rib injury – the latter of which landed him on injured reserve in December.

Sean McVay doesn’t think people realize how much Rochell battled through in 2021, which is why he’s viewing the young cornerback as a rookie this year.

“I look at Robert Rochell in a lot of instances as a rookie because he did some really good things, but I don’t think anybody understands all of the things he was pushing through – whether it’s the wrist injury, he ended up having the lung/rib type of deal,” McVay said this week at OTAs. “He’s a guy that made a great play in 7-on-7 today. You can see the communication in that meeting room with Chris Shula, Jonathan Cooley and Raheem and Lance Schulters has been excellent. Being able to identify some of those younger guys, they fit the mold and looking forward to seeing those guys continue to evolve for us on the back end.”

McVay mentioned Taylor Rapp, Jordan Fuller and Nick Scott as leaders at the safety position, but the Rams also have younger defensive backs who are expected to step up this season, including Rochell.

That group includes rookies Decobie Durant and Derion Kendrick, as well as first-year safeties Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake. Rochell will undoubtedly be ahead of Durant and Kendrick when training camp opens in July, but he’ll need to beat out David Long Jr. for the third cornerback spot behind Jalen Ramsey and Troy Hill.

McVay seems to think highly of the second-year corner, and he could be in for a big 2022 campaign now that he’s fully healthy.

Sean McVay is already raving about Allen Robinson early in OTAs

The Rams began OTAs recently and Sean McVay has already been very impressed by Allen Robinson.

The Los Angeles Rams have gotten their OTAs underway this week and all eyes were on the team’s new signing on offense, Allen Robinson. When asked about Robinson and what he brings to the offense, Sean McVay had nothing but good things to say about the Pro Bowl wideout.

“He’s a stud. I’ve been so impressed with just his overall professionalism day in and day out. He’s got a great way about himself,” McVay said. “Locked in in the meetings and I think the first thing that stands out is the body control for a bigger receiver. I bet you he’s a baller on the basketball court. He’s wired to be able to double up and play underneath himself. Some of those bigger guys that play as big as he does typically don’t have the ability to get in and out of their breaks as seamlessly as he does. But I think his transition in and out of breaks and how smooth he is for how big he is, it’s been very exciting, and love getting to know him a little bit more.”

Following a Super Bowl victory, not many expected the Rams to aggressively pursue a wide receiver in free agency. However, Los Angeles relished the opportunity to sign Robinson after he had a forgettable campaign with the Chicago Bears in 2021.

Robinson has three 1,000-yard seasons under his belt in his first eight years in the NFL and he’ll now get an opportunity to catch passes from Matthew Stafford and thrive alongside Cooper Kupp. Even though Stafford isn’t throwing passes yet, and the Rams are just beginning offseason activities, McVay is clearly amped up to have Robinson in the offense this season.

There’s absolutely no reason to worry about Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey missing OTAs

Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey aren’t at Rams OTAs, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that

There’s a lot of excitement about the Los Angeles Rams starting organized team activities, or OTAs, this week. Players aren’t hitting yet, but they’ve put on their helmets and begun running drills on the field – the first big step in the offseason workout program.

Two notable members of the Rams were absent from the first two days of practice, however: Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.

If you’re not aware, OTAs are completely voluntary. There’s no obligation for any player to attend these practice sessions, and they can’t be fined or suspended by the team for missing them.

That alone makes the absences of Donald and Ramsey no concern whatsoever. They’re two of the primary leaders of this team, and their decision not to attend OTAs isn’t anything to be worried about.

Sean McVay said on the first day of OTAs that he’s had great conversations with Donald and has been in communication with him – so it’s not as if Donald skipping the start of OTAs caught the Rams by surprise. Coincidentally, OTAs began on Donald’s birthday, and he was celebrating with his family, seemingly on vacation somewhere nice.

The best defensive player in the world isn’t suddenly going to drop off because he skipped a few OTA sessions.

As for Ramsey, he usually works out on his own during the offseason. That doesn’t mean he misses every single practice and workout the Rams hold, but he prefers to train alone and get ready for the season in his own way.

And, in fact, Ramsey was at some of the Rams’ workouts last week when Troy Hill arrived. So it’s not like he’s staying far away from the team and their on-field workouts at the facility. He’s attended those.

That didn’t stop “Good Morning Football” from debating whether it’s a concern that Donald and Ramsey haven’t been at OTAs yet. DeAngelo Hall doesn’t see a problem with it, saying “they are proven commodities, they understand the system, they know what’s going on.”

“More importantly, guys in that locker room trust those guys,” he said. “They know that they are going to come and be about their business when they step on the football field. … I ain’t worried about AD and Jalen Ramsey. They can go have fun. Just show up on game day.”

Schrager wasn’t as convinced, saying he is actually concerned about Donald skipping OTAs because of his flirtation with retirement and the new contract he’s seeking from the Rams.

Yes, Donald wants a new deal in order to continue his reign as the leader of their defense, but missing the start of OTAs isn’t his way of holding out. The Rams already plan to give him a raise, something they’ve been working on this offseason.

Would the Rams love to have Donald and Ramsey running around on the field during OTAs with their teammates? Of course. Is McVay going to lose sleep over it? Absolutely not.

There’s nothing to be concerned about. Donald and Ramsey will almost certainly be there for the mandatory portion of minicamp, and they’ll show up to training camp in excellent shape like always.